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Microprocessor



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A microprocessor -- also known as a CPU or central processing unit -- is a complete computation engine that is fabricated on a single chip. The first microprocessor was the Intel 4004, introduced in 1971.

What is a chip? A chip is also called an integrated circuit. Generally it is a small, thin piece of silicon onto which the transistors making up the microprocessor have been etched. A chip might be as large as an inch on a side and can contain tens of millions of transistors. Simpler processors might consist of a few thousand transistors etched onto a chip just a few millimeters square.

Based on the instructions, a microprocessor does three basic things:

  • Using its ALU (Arithmetic/Logic Unit), a microprocessor can perform mathematical operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Modern microprocessors contain complete floating point processors that can perform extremely sophisticated operations on large floating point numbers.
  • A microprocessor can move data from one memory location to another.
  • A microprocessor can make decisions and jump to a new set of instructions based on those decisions.

 

Clock speed is a measure of how quickly a computer completes basic computations and operations. It is measured as a frequency in hertz, and most commonly refers to the speed of the computer's CPU, or Central Processing Unit. Since the frequency most clock speed measures is very high, the terms megahertz and gigahertz are used. A megahertz is one-million cycles per second, while a gigahertz is one-billion cycles per second. So a computer with a clock speed of 800MHz is running 800,000,000 cycles per second, while a 2.4GHz computer is running 2,400,000,000 cycles per second.

A teraflop is a computing term used to define the number of floating point operations a computer processor can perform per second. Used computing performance, floating-point operations per second or FLOPS determine how many floating point mathematical operations can be handled by a computer's processor. The largest computers in the world use chips that work in teraflops, trillions of operations per second. The teraflop computers are typically found in research facilities both educational and military.

Dual-processor, Dual-core, and Multi-core: Keeping it straight

Dual-processor (DP) systems are those that contains two separate physical computer processors in the same chassis. In dual-processor systems, the two processors can either be located on the same motherboard or on separate boards. In a dual-core configuration, an integrated circuit (IC) contains two complete computer processors. Usually, the two identical processors and their caches and cache controllers are manufactured so they reside side-by-side on the same die, each with its own path to the system front-side bus. Multi-core is somewhat of an expansion to dual-core technology and allows for more than two separate processors.

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